Is It The End?
Ana bent over as Christian ordered and gripped the edge of the narrow table with both hands, her cheek pressed against the highly polished surface. She concentrated on his voice as he explained what he was about to do – hit her six times with whatever was his torture instrument of choice and she was to count with him. She wondered for a moment why he would insist on such a thing, but her thoughts were cruelly interrupted when the first blow fell on the tender skin of her butt. Was it a belt, a heavy leather belt?
In shock she bit down on her lip…
“Count, Ana,” his harsh voice commanded.
“One,” she gasped, fighting past the shock, but no sooner had the word left her mouth when another hit connected, not quite in the same position on her behind but just as painful. She’d asked him to show her the worst and he wasn’t pulling his punches. She steeled herself for the next blow. How would she ever get to six when the tears were already pooling in her eyes?
“Ana… Count!” Christian hissed again.
“Two!” she managed to mumble a little louder.
As soon as she spoke, the third blow fell, this time on her opposite ass cheek. Her breath caught in her throat.
“Three!” she said, wincing, yet even to her own ears her voice sounded little more than a whisper. If he hadn't heard, would he be angry? She'd asked for this, but now she doubted she could go on. Her thoughts were a jumble. The pain she could almost manage, but the sound of Christian’s heavy breathing was practically unbearable. He was getting off on her suffering.
The belt fell for the fourth time, disrupting all her ability for thought and before she had time to consider her voice cried out. “Yellow!” She knew she'd agreed to do this, but she needed some space. She needed to warn him. Would he listen?
There was a pause. Christian's breath caught. The only sound in the room was her soft weeping, but whether she was crying because of the pain, or the humiliation, or the knowledge of his elation, even she didn't know.
The pause stretched out... “Ana, do you need to use your safeword, the one we agreed upon?” Unusually in this room, Christian's voice was less dominant more tentative.
Did she? She so much wanted to escape the hurt, but did she want to fall at the first hurdle? Did she want to end her relationship with this broken, tortured... incredible man?
Before she could call her brain to order, there came the sound of something heavy falling to the hardwood floor and seconds later Christian's arms were lifting her from the table, cradling her to his chest. She pushed herself away from his arms and turned to face him.
“I didn't say Red!” Surprisingly, these were the only words which forced themselves through her clenched teeth. “You still had two to go!” Why the hell did she say that? She should have been demanding that he never punish her again, never touch her again.
“No, Ana. But I did,” he explained, closing the distance between them again, his grey eyes narrowed in puzzlement.
Ana stepped back once more. “I said Yellow!” she almost shouted, though why she should be arguing against the cessation of her punishment she had no idea.
“But you should have said Red!” Christian was adamant. “I know your body, Anastasia. You hated every moment of that...”
“But you loved it,” she countered, unable to halt the tears which ran messily down her cheeks.
Christian's brows furrowed. “At first... but no, I really didn't.” He looked somehow lost. “Ana, I'm your Dom. It's up to me to take care of you and if you don't want to do something, then neither do I.”
Shaking her head, Ana could only stare wide-eyed at the man she had fallen in love with against all her better judgement. What she should be doing is running from him as fast as she could. She didn't understand, yet she didn't move away when he wrapped his arms around her again.
“Come,” he said, picking her up in his arms. “Let's get you bathed and see what we can do to ease your pain.”
“Christian, we need to talk...”
“Of course we do. And we will, after you're feeling more comfortable. We need to seriously redefine your hard limits. But right now, making you feel better is my top priority.”
He carried her to the door, wrapping her velvet robe around her to cover her nakedness. Smoothly, as if afraid he would jolt her, he’d turned towards the stairs when she realised this was the wrong direction.
“The sub's room is that way,” she said jerking her head tiredly to the room at the opposite end of the corridor.
“You're not staying there tonight. I want you where I can take care of you.”
But I'm still your Sub! Ana sighed inside her mind, but she was too exhausted to argue. Earlier this evening, Christian had taken her to the Red Room where he'd introduced her to the Thomas Tallis experience, a wonderful session of mind-blowing sex where he'd treated her to multiple orgasms while the beautiful choral music played in her ears. Even Christian had admitted his satisfaction when he'd taken her to bed.
She'd napped a little before waking up to the sounds of his mournful piano playing drifting upstairs. Why did he always play such sad tunes? She'd quickly pulled on some clothes and gone down to the great room hoping to talk to him. Only she'd found him closed off, almost angry, refusing to answer her questions. Instead a dreadful row about his need to punish her had ensued which, in turn, had ended up with her subjecting herself to being physically chastised. Why had she opened her mouth? Why couldn't she have stayed in bed, though perhaps that would only have postponed this dire event? It was bound to have happened sometime. Better to discover now that they were incompatible, or were they?He did stop!
He carried her inside his bedroom and laid her very gently on the bed, shifting her so she was lying on her side while be placed a pillow behind her lower back.
“Stay there while I run your bath,” he ordered, though not in his Dom voice.
Ana gave the ghost of a smile. “OK. I don't think I can move right now anyway.” Her voice was little more than a whisper.
“Good girl.” Christian answered her smile, though his gaze was infinitely contrite. He softly kissed her forehead before disappearing into his bathroom.
Minutes later, when he returned, he found Ana dozing. “Come on, Ana,” he said, encircling one arm around her shoulders while the other slipped under her legs. Seemingly without any effort, he scooped her up and took her to be bathed.
The water was warm and sweet smelling as it lapped against her body, though one of Christian's hands supported her back, preventing her weight from pressing down on her ass. She'd expected him to join her, but he sat on the edge of the tub as he tenderly washed her down. Strangely, Ana felt a frisson of disappointment.
Jeez! Where did that come from? No matter how carefully Christian was treating her now, he was responsible for her hurting. Yet I signed that contract. I agreed to be his submissive. Honesty compelled her to admit that in the beginning Christian had tried to warn her. She had to accept some of the blame... and did she really want to leave him?
As her mind drifted anxiously in circles, she was lifted from the water and wrapped in warm towels. He sat on an armchair, setting her on his lap while he patted her dry. Even if she'd wanted to see to her own needs, it seemed her body was incapable of moving, so she lay and let him do as he wished while her heavy eyelids threatened to close.
“Don't worry, Ana. You'll soon be able to sleep. Just stay with me a little bit longer and I'll let you alone.”
What the fuck? Ana's exhausted body tried to jack-knife off his lap. “Christian, I can't manage another fu... round.”
“That's not what I meant!” He held her to his chest, his strong arms like steel encased in velvet. “I'm not a monster, Ana. At least, I hope you'll see I'm not one. No more sex for you tonight. Maybe tomorrow. We'll have to see how you feel.”
Maybe no sex tomorrow either? Even feeling the way she did, Ana wasn't sure some very small part of her objected. When had she become so insatiable? Ever since I met Christian Grey, her subconscious reminded her.
In her reverie, she hadn't noticed that Christian had laid her face down on his bed, turning her head so she faced him, and gently smoothing her damp hair from her forehead.
“This is arnica ointment. It will help soothe the sting and reduce the inflammation. We might need to apply it a few times, but it will help, I promise,” he spoke quietly as his fingers skimmed across her ass, gently rubbing in the salve and Ana was surprised to feel the burning recede a little, though whether this was the result of the cream or Christian's magic fingers, she didn't know.
As long as he never uses a belt on me again. Her body froze at the thought.
“No more belts, Ana. Ever!” He bent down and whispered in her ear, answering her unspoken need. “Tomorrow, if you feel up to it, we'll review the contract. I don't like seeing you so wounded. I've never felt like this before. Another first for you, Miss Steele.”
Ana gave a tiny giggle, surprising herself. A very short time ago she'd felt angry and shamed. But now she found herself drifting off to sleep to the sound of Christian's voice and the feel of his soft caresses. Just before sleep took her completely, she knew that he'd climbed into the bed behind her, his arm resting around her waist and his now flaccid dick nestling between her buttocks and somehow she was comforted. She wouldn't have to leave him. Maybe they would be able to sort this out.
When Ana woke again, it felt like morning, though the light from outside was grey, reminding her of Christian's intense, worried eyes. She was alone and felt disorientated. Experimenting, she stretched her tired muscles and immediately regretted her actions. Her behind hurt, a burning sensation covering the skin on her butt. At once she was reminded of the past night, or was it in the early hours of this morning.
She looked around the dimly lit room to discover she was alone, though not in her sub's room. This bed was much larger and she was wrapped in the silken sheets almost as in a nest... but very much alone.
Where was Christian? Last night he'd told her he wanted her with him. Had he changed his mind? Perhaps he'd thought about her chickening out of her punishment and couldn't stand to face her. Though she hadn't told him to stop. That was down to him! But honesty compelled her to admit she'd been grateful that he had.
But she was his submissive. She'd signed the contract before visiting her mother in Georgia. She remembered how he'd come to her room, after the time they'd spent with his parents. After a short scene, he'd carried her to bed. She'd fallen asleep in her allotted place only to wake hours later to find him sitting on the bed, watching her. Had he been there all night? She'd dismissed that idea as he'd been wearing his silk pyjama pants and not those jeans.
He'd looked so forlorn, as he asked her if she needed to go to Savannah and she'd told him yes. From their first meeting, Ana knew he carried so many secrets. Hardly without conscious thought, she'd recognised a damaged soul... his fifty shades of fucked up, as he described himself.
In that moment of waking, she'd wanted to wipe away that hurt, so she'd offered him the only thing she could. She'd agreed to sign his contract and she'd been rewarded with a shy smile and a surge of joy which had lit up his grey gaze. At least if she stuck around, she might discover his terrible secrets which seemed to haunt him and help him come to terms with his past. But to do that she had to stay with him. What if he'd decided she wasn't a good enough sub and had chosen to cancel the contract?
Panic started to swell within her chest as she contemplated a life without Christian, though perhaps that would be best. She felt so conflicted. Now she'd experienced what he meant as a punishment, her brain told her that leaving would be a sensible outcome. How could she stay with someone who wanted to whip her with a belt? Her heart, however, rebelled. She loved him... truly. Perhaps the short spell of physical pain would be less than the endless heartache of never seeing Christian again. What had he done to her that she would even think like that? Was she the biggest, sappiest idiot on Earth?
She pushed herself upright and caught the sound of water falling. Slowly she could distinguish between the rain hitting the window and the sound of the shower in Christian's bathroom. Relief flooded through her, lovestruck fool that she was. Ignoring her groaning muscles and stinging ass, she went to join him in the shower.
Ana meant to surprise him, but he sensed her presence before she slid open the glass doors.
“You're meant to be sleeping,” he scolded, though his tone was not that of a Dom.
“I woke and felt lonely,” Ana replied, stepping under the waterfall, slipping her arms around his waist. She'd learned that this was an acceptable area to be touched.
“I'm sorry. You looked so peaceful wrapped up in my sheets and I knew you'd be sore once you were conscious.” His hand holding the sponge swept lightly down her spine to rest on her ass, while the other cupped her cheek. “How do you feel... and don't foist me off.”
“I ache all over, but that's because my Dom keeps me very busy,” she told him with a teasing smile. “And my bottom stings, though I guess it could be worse. I was told I would get six belts but was spared two...”
The hand on her face, hushed her mouth. “Don't! That was my decision. You'd had enough, even if you were misguided and brave enough to continue. Ana, if this relationship is going to work, you have to be honest and tell me how it is for you and not what you think I want to hear.” He tipped up her chin, till he could see her eyes. “Will you do that for me from now on? Remember the word Red?”
“Yes! I will.” She smiled shyly and was pleased when he returned her grin.
“Fine. Now let's get you cleaned up and see to your aches and pains. We'll have breakfast and then we need to talk.” His voice was stern, but not intimidating, so Ana decided not to argue, though she'd prefer to get down to discussing where their arrangement would go next as soon as possible.
Again, Ana surrendered to having him massage her butt cheeks with arnica cream, after all, it did reduce the burning sensation. Once she'd dressed, Christian escorted her to the breakfast bar where Gail had already laid out their breakfasts, an omelette for Christian and granola with yoghurt and fruit for her. Given the state of her anxiety, she wasn't sure she could finish even this light meal, but one look at Christian let her know he wouldn't accept anything but an empty plate. Thank goodness that once she started eating, she found her appetite, realising that she probably needed the energy for the discussion ahead.
Looking around, Ana realised they were alone and that made her uneasy. The sight of Gail or Taylor would've been comforting and again, almost reading her thoughts, Christian leaned closer and whispered, “Don't look so worried. I'm not mad and we can work this out if you wish. I want to... more than anything.”
This assurance gave Ana more courage and without hesitation she finished her meal, before taking Christian's proffered hand and following him into his office.
“Please, sit down.” He pointed to the small two seater couch against the back wall and walked over to his desk, but instead of taking the chair behind his desk, he retrieved a file in a blue folder and came to sit beside her. “This is a revised contract. I spent a lot of the night trying to figure out what you'd agree to and came up with this.” He removed the sheets from the file and pushed them towards her. “I'd like you to read it and tell me if you'll sign it.” For a moment there was silence before he continued in a quieter voice which held an edge of anxiety. Clearly Christian wasn't as calm as he appeared. “I really hope you will. I don't want to lose you, Ana.”
Ignoring the contract, Ana's hands tightened on the arm of the sofa. “But I can't be what you want. I'm not a good submissive.”
Her words surprised a bark of a laugh from Christian. “To tell the truth, I agree, but despite that, you're the sub I want more than I've ever wanted anyone. I want you. Please, Ana, read it and tell me what you think. We can change anything you're not comfortable with.”
Ana untangled her fingers and rested her hand on the slim sheaf of paper which could alter her life in so many ways. Tears welled in her eyes. “I've read this contract so many times I believe I know it by heart. Please. Won't you just tell me what changes you've made.”
Christian covered her outstretched hand and was shocked to find it trembled. “If that's what you want...” He waited for an answer.
“Yes... Sir.” She kept her eyes downcast but couldn't resist the tease, then held her breath to see how he reacted,
“Always that flair of independence, Ana.” He spoke disapprovingly, but his smirk belied his annoyance. “I think we can agree that right at this moment, I'm not your sir.” His arm slid around the back of the sofa and pulled her closer to his side. “Most of the changes redefine your hard limits. I'll never use a belt, a whip or cane to punish you again.”
“But you enjoy those things. You were getting off on the pain you caused me.”
Christian's chiselled lips thinned and there was a hint of doubt in his voice. “Maybe so, but that's something I need to address, Ana, not you. I'm the one who's fucked up and I certainly didn't like seeing you so crushed. I admire your spirit, Anastasia, and last night I robbed you of that. I don't ever want to see you like that again.”
There was a minute or two of silence as Ana studied his face, then she heaved a sigh. She felt she was making progress... however. “But there would still be punishments?”
“Yes, but never arbitrary ones and never anything you couldn't handle. I know I promised you that before and then went and broke that vow. I won't make that mistake again because I'd like to see how far this...” Uneasiness clutched his chest as he gestured with his hand between them. He had no name for his feelings, so he cleared his throat and tried again. “How far this... thing between us could go.”
There was silence as Ana considered his new proposals. It seemed she might be able to negotiate from a stronger position, but the bottom line was that he still wanted a submissive. “And there would still be rules?” she asked, finally.
“Yes!” Christian answered quickly, glad to be back on more familiar ground. “Baby, I need to know you're safe and taking care of yourself. But I'm prepared to relax those rules somewhat, be a bit more flexible. I'm beginning to understand I can't control everything in your life.”
“But if I really stepped out of line?” Ana almost bit her tongue. He was prepared to compromise and she'd called him out again.
“If you wilfully defied me I would chastise you.”
“Using what? You've already discarded most of your instruments of torture.” Ana went at it like a dog worrying a bone.
“Well, you didn't mind the flogger or the riding crop, and there's always an old fashioned spanking which you seem to enjoy, once you get passed the embarrassment.” He turned to her, taking her face gently between both his hands, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Ana, I know this isn't the hearts and flowers you were hoping for, but I've never had that sort of relationship before. I'm willing to try something in between. I've also increased the 'date' thing in the contract, if that's something you'd want.”
“You have? Like a normal couple?”
Christian's smile reached his eyes. “As normal as I can possibly be, given my fifty shades. Ana, I promise to work on my demons if you'll just sign.” He picked up a silver pen which had been hidden in the file. “Please.”
His offer was more than she'd expected given what had happened in the Red Room of Pain last night. She'd truly believed she'd be packing her bag and leaving this morning, broken-hearted but with no other option. She reached for the pen.
“You know you shouldn't sign anything you haven't read,” Christian advised her. “Oh, and there is one more revision. I changed the time limit of the contract.” Ana's hand stopped in mid-stretch and he was gratified to see a shadow of regret darken her blue eyes. “I decided to leave it open-ended. No time limits, though you can still walk away at any time if you so wish.”
“You might want rid of me.” Her voice was very quiet, almost timid.
“Trust me. I doubt that's ever going to happen.”
She gave him a shy smile. “I do trust you.” And it was true, she did... she really did. She took hold of the pen. “Where do I sign?”
Christian turned to the last page where he'd already signed beneath the words The Dominant/Boyfriend and next to it, Ana read... The Submissive/So Much More.
Ana signed with a flourish.